This post is being updated to provide latest numbers on casualties.
Grey smoke and fire plumes erupted for the second day in Gaza and nearby Israeli communities after a cross-fire of deadly rocket strikes launched by both Israeli military and Gaza militants.
Gaza’s Health Ministry reported that the death toll in Gaza from Israeli airstrikes was 25. That number includes a Saturday night toll of four when three residential buildings were destroyed in the east of Gaza: two men, a pregnant mother, Falastin Abu Arar, and her 14-month-old infant Seba Abu Arar were killed. The Ministry of Health said a second infant was killed Sunday.
The Israeli assaults were met by Palestinian resistance factions launching more than 500 rockets towards Israeli settlements, killing four people, according to Israeli media outlets.
One of the buildings destroyed in Gaza was also home to the headquarters of Turkey’s Anadolu Agency and the Prisoners’ Information Office.
About 70 Palestinians were wounded in the attacks, according to the health ministry. Since Saturday, Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have targeted 200 civilian sites including seven residential buildings.
Mohammed Abu Marasa, 27, a hairdresser in a beauty salon, was inspecting the damage of a six-story building destroyed in the al-Khuzundar commercial and residential complex Saturday evening in Gaza City.
“Everything was upset, when we heard the small warning explosions prior to the largest one,” Abu Marasa told Mondoweiss. Three or four ladies with their children ran screaming from the shop at about 21:30, then the shop was flattened.
Usually, the warning rocket explosions prior to the largest one give enough time to allow people to get out of the area.
“This shop was only equipped with beauty supplies that cost me thousands of dollars. I am totally confused if such lipsticks or contour brushes really threaten the Israelis,” Abu Masara said.
Subhi al- Khuzundar, 27, the son of the building owner and a degree-holder in international law, is beginning his married life and was putting the final touches on the couple’s apartment. “Thanks, Israel! I must clap for turning my bride’s and my dreams into dust,” Subhi said hysterically, while clapping his hands.
“Without reading the Torah, I know that it criminalizes attacks that turn simple innocents’ lives into wrecks,” the newlywed told Mondoweiss. “Thanks to these Israeli dreams killers, because tomorrow they will allow some food truck to enter via Gaza crossing to cover their crimes and show their nice humanitarianism to a blinded world.”
Meanwhile, Israel closed its crossings with Gaza for people and goods, as well the fishing zone off the enclave’s shore, until further notice.
The UN envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nickolay Mladenov, called on “all parties to immediately de-escalate and return to the understandings of the past few months.”
The last war of 2014 severely damaged Gaza’s already-weakened infrastructure, prompting the UN to warn that the strip would be “uninhabitable” by 2020.
Fighting came after a month-long lull in violence around the blockaded enclave and came while leaders of Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, were in Egypt for talks aimed at restoring the faltering ceasefire deal.
The spark of fighting began on Friday when two Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers during the weekly protest at the Israel-Gaza border. Palestinian militants also shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered “massive strikes” on the Gaza Strip.
Armed factions in Gaza, otherwise known as the Joint Operations Room, which include the military wing of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, vowed on Saturday to “extend its response” if the Israeli army continued to target the strip.
“Our response will be broader and more painful in the event [Israel] extends in aggression, and we will remain the protective shield of our people and our land,” the Joint Operations Room said in a statement.
Egypt’s mediation team, credited with brokering ceasefires in the latest rounds of fighting, were working to prevent any further degradation. “Egypt has stepped up its efforts with Hamas, the Islamic jihad and Israel but there is no conclusion yet,” a Palestinian official familiar with Cairo’s mediation efforts told Reuters.